Takahashi (高梁市 Takahashi-shi) is a city in Okayama Prefecture in the western Chugoku region of the island of Honshu in Japan.
Takahashi City can be accessed via the JR Hakubi Line from Niimi (¥580) to the north and Soja (¥410), Kurashiki (¥580), and Okayama (¥840) from the south. Get off at Bitchu Takahashi Station.
Route 180 passes directly through Takahashi City, so from Okayama and Soja, travel North on Route 180. From Yonago, connect to Route 180 from the Yonago West Interchange and travel south through Niimi. From Hokuei and Kurayoshi, you travel south on Route 313, or north from Ibara. From the west, reach Takahashi on Route 484.
For travel to the Fukiya area, Route 85 takes you to the Bengara Village.
The area around Bitchu Takahashi Station is quite easy to navigate on foot. You can even walk to Bitchu Matsuyama Castle if you have the energy and time (1½ hours estimated to reach the castle on foot). Many people choose to take a taxi to the top and then walk down from the castle.
Taxis are located just outside the station. For those who want to visit the castle, avoid walking up the mountain, and save time, taxis are highly recommended. It costs around ¥1300, but if you are traveling with others, the split cost makes it affordable.
Although taxis are a convenient and quick way to get to the Fukiya area, the 40-minute drive is quite costly.
If you choose to use the bus for travel to sites around the station, be aware that none of the buses go to the castle. The closest stop is at the bottom of the mountain.
For travel to the Fukiya area, take the Bihoku Bus from outside the station (about 1 hour). There are only 3-4 buses a day and their schedule does not really allow visiting both Takahashi center and Fukiya the same day (first departure from Takahashi at about 10:50 and last return at 15:45).
- 1 Bitchu Matsuyama Castle (備中松山城 Bitchū Matsuyama-jō), ☏ +81 86-622-1487. One of the few remaining original Japanese castles, dating back to the 17th century, it is the only original mountain castle in the nation. It is also the highest castle, built atop Mount Gagyu. Although you can take a taxi up most of the mountain, there is a point at which you must walk up (as no vehicles are allowed on the path leading to the castle). The ascent to the castle will take you through the well-preserved and highly impressive castle walls before you reach the top. The inside of the castle does not have many artifacts however, the uniqueness of the castle and the beauty of the surrounding area more than make up for it. It has gained fame as a "Castle in the Sky" when viewed from afar surrounded by clouds (See "Do" for details on how to access the viewpoint). Despite all of its beauty and outstanding features, Bitchu Matsuyama Castle is one of the least visited of all the original castles, making it a true gem. ¥300.
- 2 Raikyū-ji (頼久寺), Raikyuji-cho, ☏ +81 86-622-3516. 09:00-17:00. A zen temple of the Rinzai sect that dates back to 1504. The beautifully constructed garden within the temple grounds was constructed by Kobori Enshu, who is one of the founders of the Japanese tea ceremony. It's about 15 minutes from JR Bitchu Takahashi Station. ¥300 adults, ¥200 children.
- 3 Takahashi Museum of History (高梁市歴史美術館 Takahashi rekishi bijutsukan), 1203-1 Haradakita-cho, ☏ +81 86-621-0180. W-M 09:00-17:00. A museum dedicated to the city's long history from its days as part of the ancient Kibi Kingdom to the feudal era when the wider Bitchu Province was ruled from Bitchu Matsuyama Castle to the present day. ¥300.
- 4 Shōren-ji (松連寺), 4102 Kamidanicho. This temple, built atop a large stone wall, looks more like a fortress than a temple.
- 5 Yakushi-in (薬師院泰立寺), 4100 Kamidanicho (North of Shoren-in). Yakushi-in gained its fame as the setting of the movie "Otoko wa Tsurai yo" (男はつらいよ).
- 6 Takahashi Church (高梁基督教会堂 Takahashi kirisuto kyōkaidō), 26 Kakinochi-machi (Along Koyagawa-dori), ☏ +81 86-622-3311. 08:30-17:30. Constructed in 1889 (Meiji 22) by a Western architect, it's the oldest church in Okayama. Worship services are still held on Sunday mornings. Free.
- 7 Haibara House (埴原邸 Haibara-tei), ☏ +81 86-623-1330. 09:00-17:00. Served as a resident for samurai guards and servants. ¥400 (includes entrance to Orii House).
- 8 Orii House (旧折井家). A former samurai residence. Visitors are free to walk in and around the house. Don't forget to go around the back to the small museum featuring samurai armor and other objects owned by the Orii family. ¥400 (includes entry to Haibara House).
- Ikegami Mansion.
- 9 Hayama Gorge (羽山渓 Hayama-kei). A scenic gorge with picturesque rock formations. It is also popular among rock climbers.
- 10 Nariwa Museum (成羽美術館), ☏ +81 866-42-4455. Tu-Su 09:30-17:00, periodic closures when changing exhibits. A remote art museum along the Nariwa River. It was founded as a way to showcase the art of Torajiro Kojima who was born here. The museum also features special exhibits throughout the year. The building was designed by the famous architecture, Tadao Ando.
The Fukiya area is quite far removed from the core of the city, centered around the castle and the station. The history of the area also differs, as Fukiya was once a bustling copper mining town; the leading producer of copper in Western Honshu during the Edo and Meiji Periods. After the Meiji Period, the mines were shut down and the area fell quiet. Today, it remains a quiet and peaceful town, but remnants of its past can be seen everywhere, from the mine shafts to the village.
- 11 Fukiya Bengara Village. One of Japan's many remaining Edo-period villages, Fukiya is well known for the unique burnt orange color of the buildings. The color comes from bengara, a bastardized pronunciation of Bengal, where the pigment was originally produced. Some of the buildings are locally-owned shops, while others, such as the post office, can only be viewed from the outside.
- 12 Fukiya Elementary School (吹屋小学校 Fukiya shōgakkō), 1290-1 Fukiya, Nariwa-cho. Built in 1909 when the area was still wealthy from the copper mines, the school, like the rest of the Fukiya area, saw its population dwindle as the mines closed. In 2009 only 6 students remained in the entire school. It was known as the oldest wooden school still in use in Japan until it finally closed in 2012. The school has been preserved as an important local landmark and popular attraction for visitors. You can only view it from the outside, yet many consider it to be one of the area's highlights.
- 13 Fukiya Historic Museum (吹屋ふるさと村郷士館), 699 Fukiya, Nariwacho, ☏ +81 866-29-2205. Daily 09:00-17:00. ¥200.
- 14 Sasaune Historic Mine Shaft (笹畝坑道 Sasaune-kōdō). One of the old copper mines. ¥300.
- 15 Bengara Factory Museum (ベンガラ館 Bengara-kan). Apr-Nov: 09:00-17:00, Dec-Mar: 10:00-16:00. A collection of buildings that walk visitors through the steps of gathering and creating the bengara dyes, as well as the dyeing process. ¥200.
- 16 Nishie Residence (西江邸 Nishie-tei), 1604 Sakamoto, Nariwa-cho. Daily 09:00-17:00. The house was built by the Nishie family who prospered from both the copper mines and the bengara dyes and fabrics. The house remains the property of the Nishie family. ¥500.
- 17 Hirokane Residence (広兼邸 Hirokane-tei), 1710 Nakano, Nariwa-cho. The house, built in 1810, belonged to the Hirokane family, a merchant family who made money off the copper mines. ¥300.
- 1 Bengara Dyeing (ベンガラ染体験), 1604 Sakamoto Nariwa-cho (At the Nishie Residence), ☏ +81 86-629-2805, firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 10:00-16:00. The Fukiya area is famous for its rusty-red bengara dyes which it has been producing since the Edo Period. Those who like the color can of course purchase various articles of dyed clothing at various shops in the town however, there is another option for those interested in bengara dyes: learn to dye your own scarves. Those interested in the dyeing experience need a reservation at least 2 days in advance. Dye a small scarf ¥1,500, dye a long stole scarf ¥3,000.
- 2 Castle Viewpoint (備中松山城展望台), ☏ +81 866-22-8666. 24h, but Nov-Mar early morning to 08:00 offers the highest chances of seeing the sea of clouds. The view of Bitchu Matsuyama Castle shrouded in a sea of clouds (雲海 unkai) has gained a lot of attention. Castle fans and professional and amateur photographers alike have become interested in how to get the shot of the "Castle in the Sky" (天空の城) themselves. There is a viewpoint about 8.5 km from Bitchu-Takahashi Station. An early morning bus is available during peak season to take visitors to the viewpoint; however, you must make a reservation with the Tourist Information Center at least 1 day in advance. Because the sea of clouds are visible in the early morning, if you are serious about seeing it, spend the night in Takahashi and get up extra early.
- Nariwa Atago Firework Festival (成羽愛宕花火). Last Sat in July. A firework festival with roots dating back to the Edo Period.
- Matsuyama Odori (松山踊り). Aug 14-16. A dancing festival that began in the 17th century. It features a dancing parade, a samurai dance performance (仕組踊り), and the yatosa (ヤトサ) in which observers are welcome to join the dance.
- Fukiya Bengara Lantern Festival (吹屋ベンガラ灯り). 3rd weekend in September, 17:00-20:00. Lanterns line Fukiya's historic street and traditional dances are performed.
The most popular souvenir from Takahashi is the Bengara cloth. The Bengara dyes have been made in the Fukiya area for centuries and they sell attractive scarves, bags, shirts, and other items made from the bengara cloth.
- 1 Asada Hyakka-ten (麻田百貨店), ☏ +81 86 629-2311. A shop selling bengara products, such as scarves, clothing, and paper, as well as bengara powder and other local goods.
- 2 Koyagawa Tourism Center (高梁市観光物産館紺屋川), 44-1 Honmachi. Daily 09:00-17:00. A great place to purchase Takahashi's local products and handicrafts.
- 1 Cafe Rest Chateau (カフェ・レスト・シャトー), 13-11 Raikyujicho (From the station, go north. When you reach the canal, turn right and cross the train tracks. Chateau is on your left.). Daily 08:00-20:30. Sells set lunches & dinners for about ¥800. Also sells pasta, omurice, and curry. Famous for having amazing parfaits, as well as for 'bucket parfaits' - parfaits served in a pail, or if you reserve in advance and have enough people, you can order the giant parfait served in a tub (14-16 people recommended).
- 2 Kawakamiya (川上屋), 1308-9 Asahimachi. A convenient katsu-don (pork cutlet) restaurant with other similar foods.
- 3 Kappo Uno (割烹う乃), 1967-1 Masamune-cho, ☏ +81-866-22-0080. 17:00-late. Serves yuzu miso katsudon (pork cutlet with yuzu miso sauce over rice), a local specialty.
- 4 Organic Shokudo Kaneya (オーガニック食堂 金子や), 885 Fukiya, Nariwa-cho. Daily 11:30-17:30. An organic restaurant. Its Bengara vegetable curry and Bengara vegetable katsu curry are fairly popular. The black curry is both interesting to look at and delicious. Curry ¥800-900.
- 5 Pizzeria Mio (ピッツェリア ミオ), 33 Honmachi. Daily 11:00-15:00, 17:00-20:00. Serves pizzas baked in an Italian oven.
- 1 Takahashi Kokusai Hotel (高梁国際ホテル), 2033 Masamune-cho, ☏ +81 86-621-0080. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. Prices start at ¥7350.
- 2 Motonakadatei Kurayashiki (元仲田邸くらやしき), 1757 Uji-cho (from Bitchu Takahashi Station take a bus to Ujinokyo-mae), ☏ +81 86-629-2118. Check-in: 16:00, check-out: 10:00. ¥3150 without meals, ¥6820 with two meals.
- 3 Business Hotel Takahashi (ビジネスホテル高梁), 1943-5 Ichiei-machi, ☏ +81 86-622-6766.
- 4 Akagi Ryokan (赤城旅館), 789 Ichidan-cho, ☏ +81 86-622-3241. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00. Prices range from ¥8400 to ¥12600 (includes two meals).
There are direct lines from Bitchu Takahashi Station to each these destinations: